Jacob Moreno’s Great Idea

Of course he had more than one. He is best known for psychodrama and psychodrama is only possible because it is built on many great ideas.  But what if there was only one idea?

Here is one of Moreno’s great ideas:  therapeutic tele.

OK, I imagine you are thinking that therapeutic tele refers to the client therapist relationship.

The importance of therapist/client connection has increasingly been well recognised. There has been research to confirm the obvious. See, for example, this quote from a classic study:

…the patients who had successful outcomes appeared more willing and able to have a meaningful relationship with the therapist. The patients who did not improve in therapy did not relate well to the therapist and kept the interaction superficial.

Assay and Lambert 1999

So was Moreno there first as always?

Not so fast, therapeutic tele is almost the exact opposite of the therapist/client relationship:

Moreno saw the power of relationships from a different angle. The therapists…

… cherished the notion that the psychiatrist alone is the healer, that all the therapeutic tele derives from him and nowhere else is so concentrated and effective. However, sociometric studies revealed to me that a great deal of the therapeutic tele is distributed over the community and that the question was only to make it effective and to guide it into the proper channels. … The chief psychiatrist had to be put out of action to be removed from the scene; he became an auxiliary ego at a distance. His function reduced itself to deciding who might be the best therapeutic agent to whom, and aid in the picking of these agents. … He had lost all the insignia of all-mightiness, of personal magnetism, and status of counsel. The face-to-face physician had become a physician at a distance. He adjusted his function to the dynamics of a tele world.

(Moreno 1977:242-243)

Key ideas:

  • “therapeutic tele is distributed over the community and that the question was only to make it effective and to guide it into the proper channels.”
  • The therapist becomes “an auxiliary ego at a distance”

Therapeutic tele is not evenly distributed.

To make it effective and guide it we need sociometry, to see the social and cultural atom.

By the measure of love, hate, influence, power, significance the most potent therapeutic tele is in the marriage or other loving committed relationship.

Therapeutic tele is a great idea, it changes everything.  That is why we have group therapy, and interpersonal relationship therapy.

That is why I do Psychodramatic Relationship Therapy Training


Assay, T. P., & Lambert, M. J. (1999). The Empirical Care for the Common factors in Therapy: Quantitative Findings. In M. A. Hubble, B. . Duncan, & S. D. Miller (Eds.), The Heart & Soul of Change: What Works in Therapy (pp. 23 –54). Washington DC

Moreno, J. L. (1977). Psychodrama Volume One (Fourth ed.) Beacon, New York: Beacon House.

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